Weed ruling defogged

Law students tried to clear the smoke around the recent Constitutional Court dagga ruling at a legal information session in Mitchell’s Plain last week.

The third-year UWC students, Micaela Jackson and Andrea-Joy Jantjies, said the ruling did not legalise dagga, as has been widely assumed, but “decriminalised” its use under specific circumstances.

“Legalisation means there are no more laws pertaining to it. Dagga isn’t legal, it’s decriminalised for private use,” Ms Jantjies said at the session, which was held at ENSafrica’s pro bono office in Eastridge.

The Constitutional Court ruling came about after Garreth Prince, a Rastafarian who was prevented from taking the bar exam because he had been arrested for dagga possession, brought an application to the high court for the use of dagga for religious purposes. The application failed, but Mr Prince then reapplied, saying parts of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act infringed on the constitutional right to privacy.

“It overlapped with the right to privacy,” Ms Jackson said.

On September 18, the Constitutional Court ruled that dagga could be grown for private consumption by adults but could not be bought for that purpose.

“Drug use is a big concern in South Africa. That is why the Constitutional Court can’t decriminalise the purchasing of it,” Ms Jantjies said.

The new ruling does not affect the buying and selling of dagga nor its use among teenagers, both of which are still illegal.

The act, as it stands now, was not complete because it did not indicate how much dagga was considered a reasonable amount for personal use and that opened up a lot of “grey areas”, Ms Jantjies said.

Parliament has two years to “fix the defects” in the act before the constitutional ruling becomes final.

People who took part in the session had many questions on the ruling such as: would giving dagga away or bartering be considered dealing; what about the privacy of residents who do not want to smoke dagga but had to endure the fumes from neighbours; and just how private is “private” according to the ruling. For example, would smoking in a parked car in a public place be considered private, one participant asked.

Ms Jantjies said that those and many other factors would have to be covered in the amended legislation. “Parliament has to enact legislation. If they do not, we will have a lot of problems,” she said.

ENS has also offered to host the same information session at schools, as it has done with its anti-bullying sessions. For more information, contact the office at 021 397 4241.